West side stories

The stigma surrounding West Campus is felt well before even arriving at Queen’s, but as any resident or visitor will tell you, those who get to know it are bound to find an inviting haven

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When I first accepted my admission offer from Queen’s more than two years ago, I thought I knew two important things about the school. First off, Western was now my enemy so I found myself joining Facebook groups such as “Western, isn’t that a type of omelette?” in an early effort to establish Queen’s pride.

Second, when it came to residences, I knew I wanted to live anywhere but West Campus. Even the higher likelihood of getting a single room wasn’t enough to entice me to put it as one of my options.

I was placed in Chown Hall, an all-girls residence on main campus, but maybe I should have given West Campus more of a chance.

The red edifice of Jean Royce Hall lies just a 15-minute walk or five-minute bus ride from main campus. Built in 1974, Jean Royce Hall, named after Queen’s longest-serving registrar was built to accommodate the ever-growing Queen’s population. Consisting of 12 houses named after prominent former Queen’s faculty and administrators, as well as two sections of buildings (phases), the residence was originally meant to accommodate 564 students. That number has grown with the conversion of many common rooms to doubles, a trend that can be found residence-wide.

West Campus is home to the Faculty of Education and Richardson Stadium, a landmark for being the home of the Queen’s Golden Gaels. More ominously, it’s known for being a stone’s throw away from Kingston Penitentiary.

Holly Nesbitt, ArtSci ’10, said she had no expectations when she found out Jean Royce Hall would be first year home.

“I had never heard of West when I first came to Queen’s,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh well, I can handle this.’ ”

Nesbitt, who lived on the International Floor, said she became close friends with many of her floormates because of the tight-knit community, which comes as a result of the distance from Main Campus.

“Everyone knows that they got the short end of the stick, so we just had to deal with it.” she said. “It felt like a little family because of the isolation.”

Nesbitt said she met her boyfriend and best friend on her floor.

“I met great people there, so it wasn’t so bad.”

Trevor Martin, ArtSci ’11, said when he found out he was placed on West Campus, he tried to take proactive measures to change his living situation.

“I called Queen’s residences to try to switch out,” he said. “They said you had to live there at least a week before putting a request in for a transfer.”

Like Nesbitt, Martin said it was the people he met on West, which ulitimately led him to stay .

“Most of the memories I have of West Campus revolve around my floor,” he said. “My floor went out to dinner at the caf together every night at 5:30.”

Martin, who lived in Miller House, said there would always be 15 to 20 of his floormates present at their nightly floor dinners.

“We had this special loon call that meant that it was dinner time,” he said. “I couldn’t do it. It was only my floormate Nick who could. He had this certain way of cupping his hands. The whole floor could hear it.”

Despite the bonding time the cafeteria offered, Martin was quick to dispel one of the most prominent rumours surrounding the food situation at Jean Royce Hall.

“Despite what you may hear, the caf on West is not better. That’s a fallacy.”

Martin said “Westies,” past and present share a sense of comradery.

“You’ll find that there is an intercom in your room that doesn’t work. If you unscrew the cover, you’ll see notes from Westies from previous years,” he said. “In the notes, people will give you advice such as how to get up on the roof.”

Martin said one of the most inconvenient aspects of living on West Campus was the commute to Main Campus for classes.

“You have to wake up a lot earlier to catch the bus,” he said. “Your morning revolves around getting to the bus on time.”

Martin’s floormate-turned-housemate, Meaghan McStravick, ArtSci ’11, was more frank about her relationship with Kingston Transit.

“The bus was the bain of my existence in first year, yet the biggest necessity. It was a love/hate relationship,” she said.

McStravick said she only hung out with her floor in first year, due to convenience and the inclusive nature of her floor, characteristic of many floors on West.

“We had so many floor parties, it was unbelievable,” she said. “Really, we just threw parties every night.”

Allison Williams, ArtSci ’09, was a Don in phase one of Jean Royce Hall in 2007-08. She said West Campus was not on her list of preferred residences to work at.

“I had expressed my preference to be a Don on an all girls floor. When I found out I was a Don on West, I was disappointed,” she said.

Williams said she originally was concerned about the distance to Main Campus but ended up enjoying the daily commute.

“Actually, I really liked the distance because I found it was nice to have that separation between your class and your home, which you don’t get on Main,” she said. “I also found that I walked a lot. I ended up not using the bus that often.”

Williams added that as a Don, she noticed that her residents had to be more organized than those living on Main Campus.

“I did notice that living at West forced them to be a little more structured than they would otherwise.”

Williams said she also enjoyed the relaxed eating situation the cafeteria at Jean Royce Hall offers.

“When I was a Don, you could take your lunch back to your room with you,” she said. “It wasn’t like the brown bag lunches you can get at the cafeterias on Main [Campus]. You could take whatever food you ordered at the cafeteria back to your res room or common room.”

Williams said she lived in Victoria Hall in first year and noticed that her residents in Jean Royce Hall became closer than she ever did with her floormates, as was evident by many of them choosing to live together in second year.

Williams also made one further observation about her residents, many with which she still remains in contact.

“Because the West Campus kids have lived further away from campus, most of them choose to live near there when they move off campus on streets such as Toronto or Victoria,” she said. “Because of that, they often end up living in nicer houses, because they don’t mind living further away from campus.”

Williams said now that she’s graduated, she doesn’t attribute much of her Queen’s identity to her residence life, although as a Don she noticed there is a definite connection between those who spent their first year at Jean Royce Hall.

“It’s hard to quantify the sense of community at West Campus,” she said. “There’s more of an affection built up around West Campus than there is with any other residence.”

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